Journal Article

Diurnal patterns of water use in <i>Eucalyptus victrix</i> indicate pronounced desiccation–rehydration cycles despite unlimited water supply

Sebastian Pfautsch, Claudia Keitel, Tarryn L. Turnbull, Mike J. Braimbridge, Thomas E. Wright, Robert R. Simpson, Jessica A. O'Brien and Mark A. Adams

Edited by David Whitehead

in Tree Physiology

Volume 31, issue 10, pages 1041-1051
Published in print October 2011 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online September 2011 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tpr082
Diurnal patterns of water use in Eucalyptus victrix indicate pronounced desiccation–rehydration cycles despite unlimited water supply

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Knowledge about nocturnal transpiration (Enight) of trees is increasing and its impact on regional water and carbon balance has been recognized. Most of this knowledge has been generated in temperate or equatorial regions. Yet, little is known about Enight and tree water use (Q) in semi-arid regions. We investigated the influence of atmospheric conditions on daytime (Qday) and nighttime water transport (Qnight) of Eucalyptus victrix L.A.S. Johnson & K.D. Hill growing over shallow groundwater (not >1.5 m in depth) in semi-arid tropical Australia. We recorded Qday and Qnight at different tree heights in conjunction with measurements of stomatal conductance (gs) and partitioned Enight from refilling processes. Q of average-sized trees (200–400 mm diameter) was 1000–3000 l month−1, but increased exponentially with diameter such that large trees (>500 mm diameter) used up to 8000 l month−1. Q was remarkably stable across seasons. Water flux densities (Js) varied significantly at different tree heights during day and night. We show that gs remained significantly different from zero and Enight was always greater than zero due to vapor pressure deficits (D) that remained >1.5 kPa at night throughout the year. Qnight reached a maximum of 50% of Qday and was >0.03 mm h−1 averaged across seasons. Refilling began during afternoon hours and continued well into the night. Qnight eventually stabilized and closely tracked Dnight. Coupling of Qnight and Dnight was particularly strong during the wet season (R2 = 0.95). We suggest that these trees have developed the capacity to withstand a pronounced desiccation–rehydration cycle in a semi-arid environment. Such a cycle has important implications for local and regional hydrological budgets of semi-arid landscapes, as large nighttime water fluxes must be included in any accounting.

Keywords: capacitance; conductance; Eucalyptus; nighttime water transport; refill; riparian; seasonality; semi-arid Australia; wood density

Journal Article.  6886 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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